Great Zeus, it's the Infirmities!

David Feela - 12/10/2020

In the pantheon of classical gods, the Furies once stood tall. Also referred to as the “Deities of Vengeance,” these three sisters – born of a union between Gaea (the Earth) and Uranus (a personification of the sky) – mythologically sprang from the blood of their murdered father when he was overthrown and castrated by his son Cronus. You can rest assured the expression “bad blood” was also born from this mythos.  

According to Wikipedia, the sisters listened “to complaints brought by mortals against the insolence of the young to the aged, of children to parents, of hosts to guests, and of householders or city councils to suppliants – and punished such crimes by hounding the culprits relentlessly.” One sister meted out vengeance for moral crimes, and the second wreaked havoc on malefactors for infidelity, oath breaking, and theft, while the third sister dealt with murderers. By Greek standards, the Furies stood in judgement over wrongdoing more promptly than our court system – a sister act that would make Whoopi Goldberg proud.

These days the ancient Greeks hold only a passing interest for me, because I’m not required to teach mythology to high school students any more. Once I retired, the gods and goddesses kindly stepped aside – that is until a new incarnation of the weird sisters emerged, what I will refer to hereafter as the Infirmities. 

For youth, believing in the Infirmities will always be a struggle, but I assure you they exist. Daily personal experience informs me of their presence. They congregate around some kind of medical pantheon, and I’m certain they’re sisters. The first one punishes the blood and the bowels, the second wreaks havoc on the skin and the bones, and the third – out of pure spite – just throws a wrench into the brain’s cognition every now and then for the fun of it.  

Edith Hamilton’s book relating the timeless tales of gods and heroes is the most famous collection of ancient Greek myths, but any mortal’s life today will gradually turn into a trove of tales, enough to convince a nonbeliever that if nothing else, Medicare must be protected.  

Anonimus and the Stone:

Once upon a couch, watching a movie, Anonimus felt a needle trying to poke a stitch in his side. As the film progressed, an unseen hand tugged more insistently on the stitch, tightening an invisible thread so that the initial discomfort turned into an acute pain. He stood up and tried to yoga it away, attempting an Archer’s Pose, Bharadvaja’s Twist the Cow Pose, and, finally, the reliable Downward Dog. But nothing worked. The pain increased. Anonimus felt as if some hideous creature would emerge from his side. Nausea, cramps, waves of pain pulsed through his body. 

Eventually he crawled to his chariot and drove to the ... er ... ER, where a CAT divination procured a reading. The Oracle of Zetroc announced that a stone had rolled out of his kidney and was blocking his ureters. Sisyphus would have sighed. With prescribed drugs, Anonimus returned home to heal and pass the evil pain out his bladder, eternally unsure what he’d done to vex the Infirmities.  

Anonimus Grapples with Gravity:

In order to apply a layer of wax to the camping trailer, Anonimus grabbed a small step-stool. Hardly as ambitious as Icarus, he simply wanted to reach the roof where he could buff the fresh wax until it sparkled like the sun. Every spring he tended the trailer’s fiberglass skin, keeping it healthy, until a force beyond his control prompted the step-stool to do a sidestep, spilling Anonimus onto the concrete. Ouch, he said, that’s going to bruise.

Overnight the wrist swelled and throbbed like the bass guitar from Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The bruise turned out to be a fracture. As the young orthopedic healer finished shaping and applying the cast, Anonimus asked why bones break so easily. The healer shrugged: You’re old. Well, maybe, but Anonimus had a sneaking suspicion at least one of the Infirmities held him down while another stomped on his wrist. 

Anonimus and the Grinder:

Chewing on the fragments of a dream, Anonimus woke in the middle of the night with a slight pain in his jaw. He took an aspirin and made an appointment for a reading at the Temple of Teeth, but an X-ray reported the root of the problem too cloudy. No visible decay. Or perhaps Anonimus with the strength of Kratos had been clenching his jaw while sleeping. Since the pain went away during the day, Anonimus enlisted the help of a night guard, wedging it into his mouth like a clam to keep his teeth apart each night as he slept.

Months passed. Pain that had vanished resurfaced, not just at night but during the day. Gradually a pounding pain. A four-aspirin night, a four-aspirin day. Back at the Temple the priest used a 3D imager, revealing a crack running straight to the root. No choice but to pull the tooth.  

Damn the Infirmities!


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